Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Even as March Madness takes hold again, West Virginia athletics director Oliver Luck said conference realignment and TV dollars are “all about football.”

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As teams poured in for the Big 12 basketball tournament, a power conference event being staged at the near-$300 million Midwestern showpiece that is Sprint Center, we were reminded how insignificant this sport is relative to television money generated by football.

Consider the comments of West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, made Monday to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton, Ohio.

“I took this job with one goal in mind … to make sure we could figure out a way to be a member of a power football conference,” said Luck, according to a report in The Times-Reporter. “Basketball, with all its movement, has zero (conference) value.

“It’s all about football and the insatiable desire Americans have to watch football on television. When Fox Sports and ESPN did the most recent deal with the ACC, the Fox people told the ACC 80 percent of the value of that contract was because of football and 20 percent because of basketball. Think about that. The ACC is a great basketball conference. It’s all about football.”

So, despite the fan interest and excitement generated by March Madness and the NCAA tournament, the administrators and television execs are swayed far more by that other sport currently running through spring drills.

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  • Larry B.

    Rather strange that when Fox Sports and ESPN did the most recent deal with the ACC, the Fox people told the ACC 80 percent of the value of that contract was because of football and 20 percent because of basketball, WVU
    AD, Ollie Luck (home of Jerry West) would say
    “Basketball, with all its movement, has zero (conference) value. The T.V. people are
    saying 20% for the dribble sport and Luck gives
    the bouncers 0%.............???

  • Kansas Jayhawker

    Oliver Luck is completely, 110% incorrect. Americans have more interest in college football but the gap is not nearly what he believes. (Oliver is a former football player in case you wondered about possible bias)

    The reason realignment is "all about football" is because the NCAA keeps the basketball tourney (March Madness) revenue to itself, to distribute to 350 member schools as they deem fit. If the actual participants kept the entire $700m/year that CBS pays for it, while football shared all it's TV money with 120 D-1 football schools, the reverse would be true.

    Oliver is a former football player. He's a meathead, and meatheads always overestimate the value of the things they care most about.

    • jake_d

      Good point.

  • Big Larry

    If what Oliver Luck is saying is true, Then why is he paying an "over the hill" Basketball Coach 3 million dollars a year to win 13 games?

    Why not fire Huggins, and bring in some poor sap and pay him $200,000 a year to coach Basketball. Surely he could win 13 games. And even if he don't who cares?

    Then take the 6 million you are paying Holgorsen and Huggins and bring in one of the "big boys" to restore Mountaineer Football.

    Heck, offer Saban 7 Million...He might come.

    Which makes more sense?

    • Airman

      I don't think you get it. Basketball truly doesn't matter from the Media Deal perspective. Basketball doesn't make money like football does.

      Saban isn't coming to WVU. WVU is not a "destination" job. That's just the way it is. Your comment screams ignorance.

  • GregG

    Football first world? Strange, coming from a man that has shown time and time again that MONEY comes first.

  • polarbear

    Rick thats what I have been saying all along. The one fatal flaw is that it makes perfect sence. The NCAA is not used to logical thinking. I think once it goes to 4 16 team super conferences things will workout better at a regional level.

  • Scott

    Chad is right, keep Luck's comments in the proper context. He's not saying BB is worthless or he doesn't care about them. What he is saying is that being in a football power conference is necessary for survival in this era of big time college sports. When it comes to the money, football rules.

  • Rick

    I know this is probably not practical, but I think it would be best if football were to be removed from all-sport conference configurations.

    Since football is by far the predominant sport, both in interest and money, and since the NCAA is basically becoming a mini-NFL, I think it would be wise to have football-only conferences, and have like-minded and like-financed programs align together. Teams could still align with a media market "electronic footprint" in order to maximize broadcast revenues. This would also allow for a smooth transition into a full-scale, financial bonanza playoff system when the time comes.

    The other sports could then align in other-than-football conferences, which could be smaller and much more geographical. As this season has demonstrated, the travel for the WVU basketball teams has been kind of burdensome. And it is for other sports that play a lot of games, as well. Travel is not as big a deal for football, because there is only one football game per week, and football teams generally only have five or six road games per season. That is significantly different than a basketball team with fifteen road games or a baseball team with thirty road games. And let's face it -- it costs a lot of money and takes an academic toll to transport sports teams long distances.

    To be honest, the Big East was a great conference for West Virginia for sports other than football. I understand and respect why Oliver Luck and the school made the move to the Big 12. But as Luck indicated, it was all about football.

    Establishing a football-only conference system while having smaller, regional non-football conferences could open the door to having the best of both worlds -- money from football and local travel and rivalries for all other sports.

    • Shadow

      Great idea, Luck didn't even think about the Rifle Team and they are/were Champs. What does anyone need so much money if it isn't to support the other sports?

  • cutty77

    80% Football Vs 20%.Thats almost Zero,when you consider how much you spend you on Basketball.Notre Dame Loses Money on Basketball,Thats Notre Dame.At least Oliver Tells The Truth on This.Just look at U-Conn a Basketball Power that nobodys wants,that should tell you someting.Football has between 12 to 14 games,Basketball has about 50 games a year.Plus its on TV every Night somewhere.

  • Billy

    Luck has not done nothing good for loyal wvu folks. Away games in conference football and basketball are out of reach now. Easy trips are gone. He has broken up rivalries that we have had for decades. I never cared for those western teams and do not enjoy them. I could care less about a "power conference. He has done things since taking that job that I would never have thought that wvu would have let him do. I do not like his vision. I never missed a game he played in. I thought at first it was a good hire, but now by his actions I see I thought wrong. He is grabbing for money and does not care who he hurts in the process. WVU is fading into the sunset under his leadership. Wv citizens were not raised to treat people the way he does. I am saddened by his methods.

    • Steve

      Billy would you rather wvu be sitting in the former big east? Making at most 9 million (when we won the fiesta bowl and went to the final four) with 7 other teams that would give their right arm to get out? We would be a Mac school in a period of 5years with no recruiting power and no ability to hire quality coaches. Sure I miss the rivalries but that is the new nature of the game.

    • Eliotz

      I've lived in California since I graduated in '82 and have always been a loyal fan. For the first time since I have lived out here, people know and respect WVU Football and Basketball, thanks to Olie Luck and what he's done with the program. Oh, and the SEC loved WVU and said we fit in perfectly but wouldn't take us because WV fought with the North in the Civil War? Seriously?

    • Larry

      Double negative.

    • john

      None of our traditional rivals are left in the big east. It was sink or swim, we joined the big 12 to swim. Its a new pond but we are not small fish as you would wish just to have close travel games. In ten yrs if your not in a power conference, might as well be in an FCS conference like the CAA.

    • Big Dog

      exactly what did you expect him to do, stay in the BE and die..he askedthe ACC one last time before joining the big12 and they didn't want us,,, he triedto get in the SEC ,no luck,, so we have some travel in BB, problems..
      they'll work it out,,, but football really doens't create any problems..

    • Paul


      I appreciate your comments about Luck as the AD for WVU.

      However, keep in mind that its always about money. If you don't have money you don't have coaches, facilities, support staff, equipment. Had we stayed in the Big East then we would be looking at maybe 5 million per year in media sharing. Please correct me if I'm wrong. So I would we stack up against teams like Miami, BC, Pitt, Syracuse, VT, Ohio State, Penn State? Those schools all bring in around 20 + million alone in media shares. Who wins that recruit? Who gets the good coaches? Who wins games or even a National title?

    • WalDog

      Can't get to away football games? Awww... maybe the 'Eers should have joined the MAC. Enough whining about travel. Jeez, even crappy old Marshall travels a ton in CUSA, but they aren't whining about it.

  • richard


  • Big Dog

    wow,, it might be the truth, but what does our BB think about being of zero value...
    i don't think i would have put it exactly that way.

    • chad

      Keep Lucks comments in context here, He is refering to TV value. Obviously the BB team have value to an institution, but when it comes to TV moneyn obody cares about BB. The players and coaches know this. Thats becasue the quality college basketball is at an all time low. Basically it stinks and is hard to watch. Even the "good" teams are terrible. The NBA is a much better game at this point. The college basketball of the 80's and 90's no longer exists. Players going straight to the NBA out of high school and the one and done guys have depleted the talent level of college hoops. March madness is only exciting because ylou fill out a bracket and gamble.

      • Big Dog

        we need a shot clock, and reduce the tv timeouts and team to's.

        • Big Dog

          my mistake, we have a shot clock but we need to cut it back to 24 seconds...tired of all this slow play of huggins

          • wvufannohio

            We dont need to change the shot clock we need to change the mentality of the coaches and players. NO one teaches good shooting. When I came up through High School and College 20 years ago, EVERYBODY on your team better have a jump shot or they werent gonna make the first cut. There are maybe a dozen guys that can shot the ball now days and I partially blame the 3 point line. No one knows how to stop across the lane, catch a pass and make that midrange jumber or to drive on a fast break and push the defender deep then pull up and take a 5-10 footer. If you have a son (or daughter for that matter) teach them to nail the mid range jumber and the wing jumper and they can go to college for free!

  • Pghmountaineer

    We may not live to see it, but all this conference realignment as it pertains to money and football is going to ruin college sports. The old fashioned rivalries are all but gone and only a few power schools continue to call the shots. The fact that Notre Dame got away with ruining the big east and continues to have the red carpet extended to it is downright disgusting.
    Who's to say that at some point 10 or 20 power schools don't brake away from the NCAA and have their own Association and their own championship game.
    If anyone doesn't think that's possible just look what's happened so far and watch what will continue to happen with only certain schools calling the shots on conference realignment.
    It is a real shame to see how this is all turning out.

    • DavidE

      Schools join together to force change? Happened years ago when ABC used to have 4 regional football games each Saturday and 1 nation-wide game. ABC picked the schools.

      Oklahoma sued. Other schools joined in the lawsuit on the side of Oklahoma. Eventually 64 of the largest football playing schools - called the College Football Assocation.

      WVU was one of the 64. And thus helped Oklahoma, and other big time football schools win the right for their conference to sign media deal with whatever network they wanted.

      Read an article when WVU was courting the Big 12, that the ADs in the Big12 had not forgotten that WVU helped.

      With the Big1G already announcing they will no longer play schools in the FCS, other big time conference will eventually do the same. And along the way, the non-power conferences in the current BCS will be abandoned.

      I would like to see the top 64 or even 80 schools, only play each other. And then their conference champions compete in a national playoff.

    • Paul

      Agree realignment is a mess. I understand the money but I keep hoping that college presidents will step in and reign I'm the madness. Apparently not and it will get uglier before its over.

      • Hoffy

        College presidents did step in, Paul, and helped create the situation. They had to vote on conference affiliations; they have had a significant influence in collegiate sports for a long time. Look at who's the head of the NCAA - one of guys the majority of college presidents selected. And guess who votes on conference commissioners? Yep, our folks in charge of protecting the best interests of our institutions of higher learning - the college presidents.

    • chad

      Not only is it possible but it's probable The NCAA is a complete joke. However I think it will be closer to 40 or 50 teams.

  • john benvenuto

    Then why does Huggins make more than Holgerson? I agree with the article that football, especially here at WVU is way more valuable then basketball. I just don't understand the why the salaries are what they are at WVU.

    • Justin A.

      Simply put, WVU is paying for what Huggy HAS done and not necessarily what he will do. 3 million per year is way too much for someone who can't recruit and is so stubborn he can't change with the times. Huggy, please step down and let OL go out and get a coach who will take this BB program to the next level!!!

    • Greg

      Huggs is a future Hall of Fame coach with 31 years head coaching experience. Holgs has 2 years experience as a head coach. Like me and you, at this point in his career the only way he sees the Hall of Fame is by paying admission. Hopefully that will change for him. But, that's why.

    • chad

      Because coaches salaries have nothing to do with TV money.Not directly anyway. We can be good or bad at either sport it doesn't matter. WVU gets (or I should say will eventually get) big money from being in a top foootball conference. Huggs makes more than Holgerson because he is an accompished experienced coach. Holgerson is inexperienced and unaccomplished at this point.

  • Jay

    Shocking news! Compelling and rich journalism. The next headline may just read: "AMERICANS LAND ON THE MOON!"

    P.S. This is NOT meant as a slight to Allan Taylor. I enjoy Mr. Taylor's work. I merely find it funny anyone even considers the question at hand. Of course football drives the bus! Has for many years.

  • Norman Julian

    That may be - that the big football bucks hold sway - but Big East basketball with its tourney this time of year in Madison Square Garden is one of the best things that ever happened to WVU sports. We miss it.
    That said, I always look forward to not missing Allan Taylor's perceptive backgrounder writing.

    • Big Dog

      but oliver is correct

      • Luke

        People watch whatever the suits send into their living rooms, even flag football.